Meet 2013 Student Focus Judge Jonathan Worth

By Jill @ WPO

Jonathan Worth image

From left:Jill Cotton (WPO), Asef Ali Mohammad (Student Focus 2012 winner, MA student, Middlesex University), Jonathan Worth (2013 Student Focus judge),  
From right: Staff at Middlesex University, David Simmonds (Photography programme leader, Middlesex University), Staff at Middlesex University, David Edwards (Sony UK)

Freelance commercial photographer and educator Jonathan Worth visited Middlesex University earlier this month.  Together with Sony, he presented the photography department with 35,000 Euros worth of Sony digital imaging equipment, part of the prize won by 2012 Student Focus winner and Middlesex student,  Asef Ali Mohammad.

Jonathan is a judge for the 2013 Student Focus competition and shared with the audience his personal path into photography.  He said that winning a competition in the early part of his career, and the people he met and situations he was thrown in because of it, had a huge impact on his success. 

With the deadline for the 2013 Student Focus entries looming on 30 November, Jonathan gave the students his top tips on what he would be looking for in an award-winning image.

1) Stand out

Think about the competition.  What does the Sony World Photography Awards require?  Is it worth entering? If it is, schedule in time to do it.  I still make the time now to enter competitions.  Remember, everyone is a photographer and even though only 200 or so universities are taking part in the Student Focus award, this is a lot of competition.  You have to stand out.

2) Photograph what you know and love - you already speak that language intimately

To paraphrase Diane Arbus, the more specific you are, the more general it will be.  For example if you want to make a point about ageing then photograph your grandmother. The photographic “language” you’ll share with her will be an intimate one and your audience will empathise with this (the judge has a grandma too!).

3) Consider your audience

Who is your audience?  In this case you have three very different judges, all looking for three different things in a winner.  For a competition, the judges' opinion is all that matters - tailor your work to them.

What will the audience's experience be?  Anyone that has worked with a lot of photographers and images will tell you at the end of the day it is very easy to become image blind.  It is hard to give the 100th person the same quality of thought as the first person you look at.  Make sure that the judge is excited to see your image at the end of the day.

4) Title

A good title can amplify tension already built within the image or it can act as a counterpoint.  If two images are equal, it can make the difference between a loser and winner.

5) Caption

Again, in a competition it may come down to just two images - as a judge, what have you got to decide between the two?  Not much.  Images go through rounds and rounds of judging, why choose one over another?  This is when the caption is important.  It adds another layer to the narrative.  The caption should enrich your experience of the image, not just illustrate it.  However, judges won't read a 500 word caption.  Keep it short and punchy - think tweet rather than treatise.  Lead the judge in with your caption so that they want to learn more.

Described as 'shaking up photo-education' by WIRED, Jonathan Worth authored and delivered the world's first open undergraduate photography class back in 2009 which saw over 35,000 people visit in just one term and designed, with Peter Woodbridge, the world first 'Undergraduate Photography Class in an App'. 

Jonathan will be judging the 2013 Student Focus competition alongside collector and curator W.M Hunt and British photographer Leonie Hampton.

For more information on Jonathan and his work go to his website, here.